12.9-inch iPad Pro review (2016)

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"That's no MacBook..."

We weren't coming out of hyperspace. We were coming out of Apple's September event. And it rose up in front of us, a 12.9-inch display atop a full-sized keyboard. Two apps ran on it, side-by-side. But not OS X. They were iOS. Close by a pencil drew, but in pixels.

All of these elements had been seen before, of course, but never from Apple and never quite this. So, instead of turning around, we tractor-beamed our way in—to the iPad Pro.

If the original iPad was meant to fit in the space between the phone and the laptop, and the iPad mini between the phone and the iPad, the iPad Pro fits somewhere between the iPad and the laptop. Just as phones have become larger and more capable, though, laptops have become lighter and more portable. And the space between them has become narrower.

Still, Tim Cook called the iPad Pro "the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing", and a piece of multitouch glass he thinks can prove even more approachable, accessible, and empowering than anything that's come before.

So, how close does the iPad Pro come to achieving that vision?

For people who want:

  • A giant display
  • Improved keyboard integration
  • Optional pencil input

Not for people who want:

  • A pocketable tablet
  • A traditional laptop
  • OS X or Windows software

In brief

The iPad Pro is the next step in Apple's tablet evolution. It's a bigger, more powerful, more productive display, with an optional, amazingly creative Pencil. But it's also a first step and one that needs the software to catch up to the hardware. So, if you need a laptop, you'll want to stick with a laptop. If want a tablet that can do some laptop-y things, but with all the flexibility and accessibility that's become the hallmark of the iPad, you'll want the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro Table of Contents

iPad Pro Video Review

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iPad Evolution

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Header Cell - Column 0
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPadiPad 2iPad 3iPad miniiPad 4iPad AiriPad mini 2iPad mini 3iPad Air 2iPad mini 4iPad Pro
Code NameK48K94J1J65P101J72J85J85J81J96J98
Model NameiPad 1,1iPad 2,1iPad 3,1iPad 2,5iPad 3,4iPad 4,1iPad 4,4iPad 4,7iPad 5,3iPad 5,1iPad 6,7
Launch OSiPhone OS 3.2iOS 4.3iOS 5.1iOS 6iOS 6iOS 7iOS 7iOS 8.1iOS 8.1iOS 9iOS 9.1
Screen Size9.7 inches9.7 inches9.7 inches7.9 inches9.7 inches9.7 inches7.9 inches7.9 inches9.7 inches7.9 inches12.9 inches
Screen Resolution1024x768 (132ppi)1024x768 (132ppi)2048x1536 (264ppi)1024x768 (163ppi)2048x1536 (264ppi)2048x1536 (264ppi)2048x1536 (326ppi)2048x1536 (326ppi)2048x1536 (264ppi)2048x1536 (326ppi)2732x2048 (264ppi)
Screen TypeIPS LEDIPS LEDIPS LEDIPS LEDIPS LEDIPS LEDIPS LEDIPS LEDLaminated IPS LEDLaminated IPS LEDLaminated IPS LED
System-on-a-chipApple A4Apple A5Apple A5XApple A5Apple A6XApple A7Apple A7Apple A7Apple A8XApple A8Apple A9X
CPU800MHz ARM Cortex-A81GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A91GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A91GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A91.4GHz dual-core Swift64-bit dual core Apple A7 Cyclone64-bit dual core Apple A7 Cyclone64-bit dual core Apple A7 Cyclone64-bit triple core Apple A8 Typhoon64-bit dual core Apple A8 Typhoon64-bit Apple A9 Twister
GPUPowerVR SGX535PowerVR dual-core SGX543MP2PowerVR dual-core SGX543MP4PowerVR dual-core SGX543MP2PowerVR quad-core SGX554MP4PowerVR G6430PowerVR G6430PowerVR G6430PowerVR GXA6850GX6450Row 9 - Cell 11
Co-processornonenonenonenonenoneM7 MotionM7 MotionM7 MotionM8 MotionM8 MotionM9 Motion (integrated)
RAM256MB512MB1GB512MB1GB1GB1GB1GB2GB2GB4GB
Storage16GB/32GB/64GB16GB/32GB/64GB16GB/32GB/64GB16GB/32GB/64GB16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB16GB/64GB/128GB16GB/64GB/128GB16GB/64GB/128GB32GB/128GB
Cellular DataHSPALTELTELTELTELTELTELTELTE AdvancedLTE AdvancedLTE Advanced
SIMMicroMicroMicroNanoMicroNanoNanoNanoAppleAppleApple
Rear Cameranone1.3MP/720p5MP/1080p5MP/1080p5MP/1080p5MP/1080p5MP/1080p5MP/1080P8MP/1080P8MP/1080P| 8MP/1080P
Front Cameranone0.3MP/VGA0.3MP/VGA1.2MP/720p1.2MP/720p1.2MP/720p1.2MP/720p1.2MP/720p1.2MP/720p1.2MP/720p1.2MP/720p
BluetoothBluetooth 2.1+EDRBluetooth 2.1+EDRBluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.2Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Fi802.11a/b/g/n802.11a/b/g/n802.11a/b/g/n802.11a/b/g/n802.11a/b/g/n802.11a/b/g/n MIMO802.11a/b/g/n MIMO802.11a/b/g/n MIMO802.11a/b/g/n/ac MIMO802.11a/b/g/n/ac MIMO802.11a/b/g/n/ac MIMO
GPSaGPSaGPSaGPS, GLONASSaGPS, GLONASSaGPS, GLONASSaGPS, GLONASSaGPS, GLONASSaGPS, GLONASSaGPS, GLONASSaGPS, GLONASSaGPS, GLONASS
SensorsAmbient light, accelerometer,
compass
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope, barometer
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope, barometer
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope, barometer
SpeakersMonoMonoMonoStereoMonoStereoStereoStereoStereoStereoStereo | Stereo
Connector30-pin Dock30-pin Dock30-pin DockLightningLightningLightningLightningLightningLightningLightningLightning
Height9.56 inches (242.8 mm)9.5 inches (241.3 mm)9.5 inches (241.3 mm)7.87 inches (199.9 mm)9.5 inches (241.3 mm)9.4 inches (238.8 mm)7.87 inches (199.9 mm)7.87 inches (199.9 mm)9.4 inches (238.8 mm)8 inches (203.2 mm)12 inches (305.7 mm)
Width7.47 inches (189.7 mm)7.31 inches (185.7 mm)7.31 inches (185.7 mm)5.3 inches (134.6 mm)7.31 inches (185.7 mm)6.6 inches (167.6 mm)5.3 inches (134.6 mm)5.3 inches (134.6 mm)6.6 inches (167.6 mm)5.3 inches (134.8 mm)8.68 inches (220.6 mm)
Depth0.53 inches (13.5 mm)0.34 inches (8.6 mm)0.37 inches (9.4 mm)0.28 inches (7.1 mm)0.37 inches (9.4 mm)0.29 inches (7.4 mm)0.29 inches (7.4 mm)0.29 inches (7.4 mm)0.24 inches (6.1 mm)0.24 inches (6.1mm)0.27 inch (6.9 mm)
Weight1.5 lbs (680 g)1.33 lbs (603 g)1.44 lbs (653 g)0.68 lbs (308 g)1.44 lbs (653 g)1.0 lbs (454 g)0.73 lbs (331 g)0.73 lbs (331 g)0.96 lbs (437 g)0.65 lbs (298.8 grams)1.57 pounds (713 grams)
Battery6600mAh6930mAh11560mAh4440mAh11560mAh8820mAh6471mAh6471mAh6471mAh7,340mAh5124mAh |
ColorsBlackBlack/WhiteBlack/WhiteBlack/WhiteBlack/WhiteSpace gray/SilverSpace gray/SilverSpace gray/SilverSpace gray/Silver/GoldSpace gray/Silver/GoldSpace gray/Silver/Gold
Launch PriceWi-Fi: $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $329, $429, $529
Cellular: $459, $559, $659
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699, $799
Cellular: $629, $729, $829, $929
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699, $799
Cellular: $629, $729, $829, $929
Wi-Fi: $399, $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $529, $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $399, $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $529, $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699, $799
Cellular: $629, $729, $829, $929
Wi-Fi: $399, $499, $599
Cellular: $529, $629, $729
Wi-Fi: $749
Cellular: $949, $1079
Release Date4/3/20103/11/20113/16/201211/2/201211/2/201211/1/201311/12/201310/24/201410/24/201409/09/201511/2015

Previously...

Each generation of iPad was built on the ones before. Instead of repeating existing features here, please check out all the details in our previous reviews.

iPad Pro Design

The iPad Pro continues the design language introduced with the iPod touch and iPad mini in 2012, carried over to the iPad Air in 2013, and now scaled up to fit the new 12.9-inch display in 2015. It brings the rounded, rectangular aluminum chassis to 12 inches (305.7 mm) high, 8.68 inches (220.6 mm) wide, and 0.27 inch (6.9 mm) deep, and to 1.57 pounds (713 grams) for the Wi-Fi version and 1.59 pounds (723 grams) for the Wi-Fi + Cellular version.

And that's a lot of iPad.

It's roughly the same weight as the original iPad, though spread out so it doesn't feel as dense. It's taken Apple half-a-decade and all the many advances in the iPad mini and iPad Air to be able to make a tablet this big that's still, relatively speaking, this light. Still, this is the first iPad that, for me, is a real two-hander.

Depending on your grip and arm strength, you can hold the iPad Pro in one hand and tap away on it with the other, just like the iPad Air. You can also thumb type in portrait mode if you simply must—though Apple doesn't provide the split keyboard, likely in recognition of how uncomfortable and unsustainable that is for any real length of time. But this iPad really demands a lap or table.

The iPad Pro comes in the same front plate colors and metallic casing finishes as the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, and new MacBook. That's black and space gray, and white with either silver or gold. No rose gold option like the iPhones 6s, alas.

There are some new elements, though. Two speaker grills on the top now match the two on bottom and enable the terrific new speaker system. And a new Smart Connector now sits on the left side, providing power and data for hardware keyboard attachments.